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EMHS PTSA adapts to the pandemic

Advocacy group donates over 8,000 pounds of clothes

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While students were back in their classrooms this fall, the district closed its buildings to parents and community members because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This posed a challenge to the Parent Teacher Student Association at East Meadow High School, which uses the building to host a number of fundraisers throughout the year, and to sell snacks and pretzels to students after school.

“Principal [Richard] Howard has been very helpful through all of this,” said the organization’s president, Donna Goldstein. “But it’s definitely affected us to not be able to use the building.”

Nevertheless, the group has continued each of its fundraisers by holding them at members’ homes. And this year’s annual clothing drive was one of its most successful, yielding 8,764 pounds of clothes and supplies like blankets and handbags.

The drive ran from Oct. 18 to Dec. 6, in partnership with Carecycle, a clothing recycling company that pays nonprofit or charity organizations to donate used clothes. PTSA Membership Chair Stephanie Inger and Treasurer Wendy Shea hosted this year’s event, and used Shea’s home as its drop-off location.

In a post on the Facebook page “Nice Things that Happen in East Meadow,” Inger posted a photo of Shea’s garage, filled with bags of clothes. “We can’t say thank you enough,” she wrote in the post, adding that Carecycle named the PTSA one of its top donors.

The PTSA typically funds scholarships for graduating seniors as well as the student governments in each grade, helping to foot the bill for events like dances, Homecoming and prom. With most of those canceled this year, most of the money is going toward the scholarships.

In 2019-20, the association gave out 20 scholarships. Last year’s clothing drive, however, didn’t have as much support as usual, and the group had to organize a last-minute plant sale to make up for it. The success of this year’s drive will bring a tremendous boost to the scholarship program, Goldstein said.

“It was packed — people were very generous this year,” she said. “I think people are home and cleaning things out more and considering what they want to keep and give away.”

In early fall, the PTSA held a mum sale and, in the run-up to Thanksgiving, they sold pies. Both were held at the home of the organization’s corresponding secretary, Karen Wier.

“Modell’s used to be very generous to us,” Goldstein said. The sporting goods chain used to run a coupon fundraiser with the PTSA, but it closed most of its stores, including the one in East Meadow, in March. 

To replace that funding, the PTSA plans to hold a January fundraiser at the Moe’s Southwest Grill on Hempstead Turnpike. Members also plan to continue their April flower sale, and to sell signs for graduating seniors in May.

“I have a great executive committee,” Goldstein said. “Most of them have a senior graduating this year, and all of them have done a wonderful job. We’re doing great things.”

The PTAs and PTSAs at East Meadow’s eight other schools have overcome similar hurdles when they had to conduct their annual events off school grounds. The five elementary schools, for example, usually hold holiday boutiques in their gyms or cafeterias. Because of coronavirus restrictions, they have held them all online.

“We all have had to become very creative,” Goldstein said. “Everyone has really had to reinvent the wheel here.”